Alcohol distributor gets data flowing

For Mihai Strusievici, improving collaboration between business units, team members and project managers was a case of putting a new integrated IT platform on tap.

Strusievici is the systems development manager for The Mark Anthony Group (MAG) in Vancouver. MAG is a manufacturer and distributor of wine and alcoholic beverages, including Corona and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

To that end, MAG is using Microsoft Corp.’s Project 2002 to centralize its project management information. The company also recently integrated its ERP system (MFG/PRO from vendor QAD Inc.) with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004 in order to standardize its operating procedures and business transactions. With nine distribution centres and various partners and suppliers involved in the typical product life cycle, MAG was in need of an integrated platform that could interact with systems that were much different from its proprietary systems.

Internally, the old method of collaboration, which involved Excel spreadsheets and e-mail to send out project files, was no longer efficient, particularly as MAG had plans for expanding its Canadian and U.S. operations, Strusievici said. In general, knowledge workers are faced with having to do more with fewer resources and also with taking on more project management roles.

MAG needed to develop a project management methodology. Previously, projects were based on checklists, which are fine for small groups, but with larger projects, Strusievici said, it gets difficult to manage resources and keep track of tasks, particularly those that involve different departments and multiple projects.

MAG required a tool that would be simple to use and fit the current Microsoft environment. It was important not to create a situation where you’re asking the user to learn something new, Strusievici said, adding that along with providing centralized resource allocation, the software makes it easier to manage a whole portfolio of projects.

MAG decided on MS Project due to the same look and feel as its MS desktop applications and tight integration with MS Office and Outlook. The initial implementation began last year and is still being slowly rolled out to the entire organization, Strusievici said. The new centralized workflow allows for status reports and consolidated updates. The Microsoft Project Web Access interface is key in allowing the project team to collaborate and access project information via a browser, Strusievici said. “Before it was about dealing with back and forth e-mails.”